( Revenge is very good eaten cold. )
- from Mathilde, by Marie Joseph Eugene Sue.
Diana L. Paxson, in her book, Essential Asatru, calls this feast a celebration of the returning light, of romance, and of marriage. The Asatru Alliance of Independent Kindreds, on their web site says this feast originally celebrated the death of Hothr at the hands of Vali. This late winter festival relates to the triumphant return of the sun over the dark days of winter. They call this day a traditional celebration of the family, and a time for the customary exchange of cards and gifts with loved ones. It is also a time, they say, for the renewal of marriage vows and an occasion for marriages.
I absolutely reject the mixing of the avenging of Balders' death, with a festival of light and love ! I also reject the presumption that the original holiday be swept under the rug, so to speak, by turning Vali's act of revenge into a card giving, gift giving, day of love !
What I have done is to simply seperate the two events and celebrate them on two different days. On February 12th, I celebrate the Feast of Vali, as originally intended, and on February 14th, I celebrate "love" with the Courting of Gerd. I feel this is the only satisfactory way to honor both events and still keep the original meaning of the events.
23. And if mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life.
24. Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.
- Exodus 21:23 -24
For the Feast of Vali ritual I place on my altar all forms of ancient weaponry,( obtained from museum replicas Ltd. ). I set on the altar a dirk, a seax, two swords, criss - crossed in the back, ( revenge and honor ), and a shield on the floor before the altar. I do not toast anyone in this ritual, but leave empty cups on the altar for Balder, Hodr, and Nanna. Remember Nanna dies at Balders' funeral and is burned beside him. The empty cups obviously represent the fact that our hearts are empty without them. I thank great Odin and Rind for bringing into this world the " little warrior "Vali, and of course Vali for his brotherly duty in avenging the death of Balder. As always I will not tell you what to say. The Gods and Goddesses want to hear your words and your praise, not mine.
Though the avenging of the death of Balder was a demanded act in our religion, and our early culture, Hodr was tricked into the evil deed, which in my opinion makes this a very solemn ritual, and a restrained feast indeed. Loki is the real evil - doer here, not poor Hodr. Vali is the instrument of revenge formed from the God - union of Rind and Odin
In the 33rd stanza of Voluspa it says :
Rind will bear Vali in the Western Halls,
That son of Odin will kill at the age of one night,
He will not wash his hands or comb his head,
Until he puts on the funeral pyre Balders' adversary.
The feast is not so much a feast as just a meal. As Marie Joseph Eugene Sue says, " a cold meal ". I place empty plates on the table for Balder, Hodr, and Nanna, for the same reason I have empty cups on my altar. The meal is sparse in both quantity and the variety of foods. I do drink one silent toast to those no longer with us.
The Feast of Vali is also a good time to reflect on evil acts and hatred that we hold in our hearts. It is a good time to just let these feelings go !
Go with Odin's wisdom, Freyja's love and Thor's protection !